Via his campaign spokesman, Frank Jackson communicated this afternoon that he will reject mayoral opponent Zack Reed's debate challenge.
Reed proposed four town-hall style debates at neighborhoods throughout the city on Monday and publicized the challenge in a press conference Tuesday morning. Reed billed these supplemental events as low-cost, more accessible alternatives to the City Club's Oct. 19 debate. Reed said it's important to engage voters who might not be able to attend a lunchtime event or afford the $35 ticket
But Jackson's campaign spokesman Joe Mosbrook confirmed to Cleveland.com
that Jackson was unmoved by Reed's challenge. He will still only be participating in the event on Oct. 19.
"He's very cognizant of balancing his current city responsibilities with campaigning, and he doesn't want to overdo it," Mosbrook told reporter Andrew Tobias. (No risk there!) "He has sort of carved out very specific times and events and things he's going to be doing for the campaign, so he's not going to take more on to his plate right now."
That's par for the course. Jackson made only limited appearances before the primary elections — he was frequently cited for his absence at neighborhood forums — and this current decision is in keeping with what appears to be a grander strategy of silence and invisibility on the trail.
And if you were Jackson, and cared only for the maintenance of your power, why not? He's got an almost limitless war chest and has been able to flood the airwaves with campaign ads and festoon city neighborhoods with bright red signs. He doesn't have to bother with much physical campaigning. He hasn't even been forced to articulate a single concrete to-do for what would be an unprecedented fourth four-year term.
Zack Reed's policies are easy to mock and poke holes in — Mark Naymik just took him to task
for his oft-cited pledge to hire 400 new police officers, a pledge Naymik regarded as an unrealistic attempt to harness voter emotion — and he is still disparaged for his three DUIs after virtually every post he makes on social media. But his campaign strategy is the antithesis of Jackson's. It is hyper-active,
omnipresent. And while the the debate challenge may have been a deliberate stunt to provoke Jackson, it certainly illustrates the Ivory Tower mentality of many of Cleveland's incumbents. Once they're in, they feel entitled to their power until they're ready to move on. Who needs to campaign?
“Why would a three-term mayor seeking a fourth term be afraid to go out
into the neighborhoods and debate the issues in front of the voters?” Reed asks, knowing perfectly well, as Jackson does, that a three-term incumbent doesn't need to do jackshit.
Mosbrook, for one, said that Jackson need not participate in additional debates because he is "taking his message directly to voters."